Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A New Way to Sample Christian Books, "Taste and See," by the John 3:16 Marketing Network authors

John 3:16 Network to Release Taste and See First Chapters Book Soon

Article by Cheryl Rogers original appeared on the John 3:16 Marketing Network blog.

A new book by the John 3:16 Marketing Network will showcase the work of 58 authors who have banded together to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ through their writing talents. Slated for release in early December, Taste and See, a Sampling of First Chapters by John 3:16 Marketing Network Authors, will be available in various ebook formats.

"I am excited to offer this book completely free through the Christmas holidays," says Lorilyn Roberts, the network's founder, who is editing the book. "I had no idea initially if anyone would be interested or if publishers would let us reprint a first chapter, but the response has been overwhelmingly positive."

"After the first of the year, people will need to sign up for the John 3:16 ezine to get Taste and See for free, but until January 1, everyone can download as many copies as they want from Smashwords and other distribution sites, including Apple, Kindle, Nook, and Sony with a coupon."

Lorilyn started the John 3:16 Marketing Network, which is free to join, as a means of collaborating on book launches and other marketing endeavors. As of this writing, the network has grown to 150-plus members. In addition to launching books, the network offers book showcases, reciprocal blogging, monthly prayer meetings via teleconferences, a bulletin board, an active Facebook page, a site to post book reviews, and tutorials for some of the more technical aspects of marketing. Lorilyn has also written a book, How to Launch a Christian Best-Seller Book, to help authors reach best-seller status on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. A storefront is run in affiliation with the New Christian Books Magazine, operated by network member Cheryl Rogers.

Taste and See, a Sampling of First Chapters, features fiction and non-fiction aimed at readers of all ages, plus a few surprises," says Lorilyn.

The John 3:16 Marketing Network plans to publish the Taste and See book annually to enable readers to enjoy new authors' books. "We write and publish a lot of books each year," Lorilyn adds. "I am sure we will have many new books to include in another sampling next year."

Again, the sample book will be free through the holidays; sales links to the full works are included. Taste and See will retail for $3.99 at Smashwords.com after the holiday promotion. It will continue to be free after the new year if you sign up for the John 3:16 ezine.

Distribution is planned through Smashwords.com and its retail network, the John 3:16 Marketing Network website and blog, New Christian Books Online Store, and network member blogs and websites.

The book's cover features mini book covers submitted by authors, in a collage format. "My goal was to showcase all the authors and their books in a visually pleasing way," says Rogers, who designed the cover and assisted with the book's formatting. Rogers, who has authored a number of books aimed at Christians of all ages, publishes New Christian Books Online Magazine as a free service to Christian readers and writers.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Ten Characteristics That Make Good Books Great

This article originally appeared on Pentalk's blog.

An Author's Study of the Classics
Ten Characteristics That Make Good Books Great
By Lorilyn Roberts




When I began my Masters in Creative Writing from Perelandra College two years ago, I was frightfully afraid I wouldn't be able to write fiction. I had spent the last thirty years reading and writing nonfiction in a journalistic setting. Long ago were the days I spent as a child reading fiction books about mushroom planets, traveling through tesseracts, meeting talking animals, solving mysteries of hidden staircases, becoming a heroine, and falling in love with war heroes. Those delightful stories were my constant companion and escape from reality; how different my early years would have been without those great books.

As I grow older, it's refreshing to see my inner child peek out and remind me I am still who I was way back then. Yes, a little bigger around the waist with a few more wrinkles, but I treasure those wonderful stories that were such a big part of my childhood. What was it about them that stole my heart and brought me such a love for books and writing?

Could I write a book similar to those that I so dearly loved? Matthew 10:24 states, "A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master." I reasoned, how can I be the best writer possible unless I read the best literature? 


I asked my professor, Ken Kuhlken, "What is the most perfect book ever written?" From this question, we had a series of discussions that led to me taking two classes of independent study. I set about reading some of the books he suggested. I am now finishing my second class and am looking forward to reading works by C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien. I saved the best for last.

After reading over a million words from the best literature, I have come to appreciate what makes a good book great is not by accident or luck. The stunning story that emerges from the pen of a Master is a work of art, painstakingly designed, written, and edited. The stories are  not created out of a "one size fits all" mentality or factory-produced where the plots are predictable and the characters "stereotypical." To write a great book, I won't find GPS directions to get me there or weekend seminars to make it easy.

Those activities serve useful purposes, but not to write great stories. It takes a commitment to excellence, patience, talent, and perseverance.

After having read ten of the best classics, I also wonder if great writing is caught, not taught, borne out of pain and suffering. I was surprised by the many similarities in the biographies of classic authors: The crucible of suffering was imprinted in their lives and found its way into the pages of their books.


To help me sort through what makes these books classics, I have listed ten characteristics I found in common. You might be surprised. I know I was.

1.  Create characters that will be remembered long after the book is finished. We are made for relationships, and this part of our nature carries over into books. For example, I remember my first love crush from The Exodus by Leon Uris when I was seventeen; and the poor, battered soul in The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. Make characters memorable and your book will be remembered.

2. The Christian worldview speaks to the heart of man. While fads come and go, new ideas spread across continents, and knowledge increases with each passing year, written on our hearts are values that cross generations and cultures. All the classics I have read present a Christian worldview. While some make no mention of the Bible (Frankenstein), it is implied, and writers who have written classics embrace this universal truth.

3. Write tight plots. John Piper has written a wonderful book called Don't Waste Your Life.  I would say don't waste your reader's precious time by including scenes or characters that add nothing to the story. Every scene, every character, and every chapter must serve a point. Examples of the best are A Tale of Two Cities and Wuthering Heights. That doesn't mean there can't be many characters. It just means each character must be absolutely necessary to propel the story forward.

4. To add to your book's greatness, let it make a statement about society, about life, about those things that are deep within us that cause us to groan and laugh, reflect and ponder, and most of all, never to give up hope (The Brothers Karamazov).

5. Take risks. Original works oftentimes make people squirm because they take the reader out of his comfort zone. Some of the great classics were not originally well received because they were "different" (Wuthering Heights).

6. Don't shy away from embracing controversial topics or paradigms that impact the story and raise the stakes for the protagonist (The Grand Inquisitor, Crime and Punishment, Frankenstein, The Power and the Glory, Wuthering Heights, The Brothers Karamazov, and Pride and Prejudice).

7. Redemption out of chaos brings hope, leaving the reader with optimism about his future. I am reminded that our words will outlive us in the pages of our books. Make your book a gift worth remembering. (Great Expectations, Crime and Punishment, Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice)..

8. The tone, symbolism, and motifs should work in unison to undergird the subliminal theme and arc of the story. Make it relevant to the reader (Wuthering Heights, Crime and Punishment, The Power and the Glory).

9. Slow down the forward progression of the story sufficiently to explore the psychological and spiritual warfare experienced by the protagonist For example, here is a comment I wrote from my analysis of Crime and Punishment: "Never mind the 'punishments' I received. What I learned early on is I have a conscience. A relentless whisper spoke to me even when I didn't want to listen. My guilt pricked my soul like a thorn, bothering me more than I could have imagined. I did not know I would feel so miserable before I committed each of my various "crimes." I was forced to carry a heavy burden that painfully weighed me down until I either confessed my sin or my guilt was discovered. The suffering was relentless and did more to drive me to a loving God than the severe discipline I received from those who showed no grace." (Frankenstein, Wuthering Heights, Crime and Punishment, The Brothers Karamazov, and Pride and Prejudice).




10.   Leave the reader forever changed. If your book is forgotten after the last page is read, you will have forfeited a great opportunity to make the world a better place.

If you have additional characteristics you would like to share, please do.

Lorilyn Roberts is an up-and-coming new author who writes with passion about life--politically incorrect topics, homeschooling, adoption, book reviews, author interviews, inspirational stories, family topics, Bible studies, poetry, and the art of writing. Lorilyn has written three books: The Donkey and the King, Children of Dreams, and How to Launch a Christian Best-Seller Book. She is the founder the John 3:16 Marketing Network, a network of Christian authors who focus on launching books, and the president of the Gainesville, Florida, Word Weavers Chapter.

Lorilyn's personal website:  http://lorilynroberts.com; to learn more about the John 3:16 Marketing Network, you can visit http://john316mn.blogspot.com.
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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tuesday, November 8, Launch Day for Letters to God on a Prodigal Son



November 8th is the big launch day for Letters to God on a Prodigal Son—Overcoming Addiction Through Prayer by Anita Estes. 

When you purchase the book on Nov. 8th you will be able to choose from many free gifts and your name will be entered into a contest to win either a $25 or $50 from some of your favorite stores! Here’s how: http://www.anitaestes.com/landing-page.html

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Wuthering Heights Critique, A Great Classic




Wuthering Heights is one of the most perfect novels I have read.  Here are my thoughts on what makes Wuthering Heights an outstanding read and why it’s considered a classic:

Characterization:

There are no extraneous characters introduced into the story. Each person serves a purpose and is often complementary to another character in the book, like a mirrored reflection or a duality, sometimes the same, sometimes opposing; i.e., Catherine and Heathcliff, Edgar and Isabella Linton, Hindley and Heathcliff, the younger Catherine and Hareton,
  Mr. Lockwood and Nelly, Nelly and Joseph,  the two families at Wuthering Heights and the Grange, the mother Catherine and the younger Catherine,  and Isabella and Heathcliff.  The relationships among the characters are complicated and evolving.   If you were to take one of the characters out of this story, the  plot development would be negatively altered.  The plot is character-driven and tightly woven throughout the story.


Tone:

The tone of the story is brooding and dark. The sensuous feeling is foreboding, first
 exhibited in the setting which Emily Bronte describes in detail. There is an element of overarching suspense and aversion to the characters:  the morose Heathcliff;  mother Catherine who dies of a brain disorder;  the drink of Hindley;  the tragic life of Isabella following her marriage to Heathcliff;  the delightful younger Catherine who succumbs to depression after coming under the control of Heathcliff. The depressing scene and dysfunctional characters that greet Lockwood’s arrival prompt him to ask Nelly to explain the history behind Wuthering Heights.

Societal:

I was struck by how Emily Bronte weaves the social status of the characters into the story:
  Joseph and his barely intelligible English; Nelly, the servant and principal narrator, and her portrayal of others from an inferior social position;  the many differences between the upper class Lintons and the middle class Earnshaws; the emphasis on social structure with less opportunity for upward mobility, which impacted the “heart” of the story -- mother Catherine sacrifices her desire for Heathcliff  to achieve a higher social status by marrying Edgar. The characters’ traits, flaws, and attributes within the structure of society make for believable people that the reader  both loves and hates.

Multi-generational:

The differences between the generations were striking: Heathcliff and mother Catherine seemed unable to change with the passage of time or grow as individuals. They were locked into extremisms that
 became dead-end roads.  Eventually, their flawed natures doomed them to early deaths, providing an opportunity for the next generation in Catherine and Hareton to overcome the past. In contrast to their parents, they were able to adapt and redeem the past, and through their transformation, the reader is filled with hope for the future.  The multigenerational aspect of time adds to the completeness  of the story—this is a family with a history, a past that threatens to destroy the future.

Spiritual/Psychological:

Emily Bronte probes deeply the psychological aspects of people’s behavior and the ramifications of the dark side of human nature. The story touches on the spiritual nature of the individuals, with references to the small church, the recurring battle with death, the repeated references to ghosts, and Joseph’s incessant recitation of Scripture.
  
Themes:

The many themes are timeless—love that is forbidden, prejudices that hurt people,
  the meaninglessness of life without hope,  hate that destroys,  the vindictiveness of human nature, and the darkness of the soul without God.

Setting:

Established in the first paragraph,  a “perfect misanthropist’s heaven. ” Right away,  I am told a lot about this story in a unique way which encourages me to keep reading.

Classic Author Similarities:

I am struck by the fact that many classics, like this one, have been written by individuals who have experienced tremendous  suffering.  I wonder if there is a relationship between a giftedness to write great stories and the degree to which one has endured hardship. Perhaps the strong emotions that are pent up in a tortured soul find solace in the pen as a healing balm.

Risky:

Creative, original stories take risks.  For instance, there isn’t one protagonist versus one antagonist in Wuthering Heights. Ninety-five percent of the story is dark and unsettling; the story reinforces negative stereotypical issues and characters. The orphan is the troublemaker and destroyer of the family, perpetuating a common “myth” with adoptees.  Joseph uses the Bible in a beguiling way to demean people, contrary to the Good Book’s ultimate purpose. The submissive role of women and their inability to escape from abusive husbands or families is also perpetuated in Wuthering Heights,  reinforcing the long-held notion that women are inferior to men.  Despite these risks,  Emile Bronte creates a masterpiece.

Fictional Dream:

Emily Bronte immerses the reader into a world that is vivid and dream-like, with colorful characters and a complex plot. She uses literary techniques that make this is a compelling read, one worth pondering after the last page is finished. It’s a shame she died so young—what other books might she have written?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Guest Post by Amanda Stephan

Let's Celebrate the Launch of Amanda's New Book 
Lonely Hearts

 

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Book Launch Party for
Lonely Hearts
One lonely mother. Two matchmaking kids. Three eligible bachelors. What could possibly go wrong?
~ a Sweet Christian Romance ~

November 1st
Purchase Lonely Hearts from Amazon.com and add your confirmation number to the form on my website (www.booksbyamanda.com) for a chance to win a Nook, Kindle, iPod Shuffle, and receive LOTS of great eGifts from some very talented authors! Offer good only on November 1st.


Sample the First Chapter Here

Lonely Hearts by Amanda Stephan
Chapter 1
                Becky Callis was new in town, and she felt her intrusion.
A bearded man outside the hardware store stopped sweeping with broom in mid-air, narrowly watching them as they drove past, perhaps wondering if she were the type to plunder and loot his shop. A couple of older women that had been chatting outside a tiny florist shop suddenly turned to stone, their mouths gaping open, possibly wondering what kind of woman would be caught dead in such an old pick-up truck. Becky even imagined one of their tongues hung out. She repressed a giggle and waved, receiving a incredulous half-wave from one of the women, and no acknowledgement from anyone else. She hated being stared at, and tried to keep a somewhat pleasant smile pasted on her freckled face as she drove through. She could feel her fair skin literally burning with embarrassment.
                Her thirteen year old daughter, Jen, gave her a twisted frown. “Mom, what is wrong with these people?” She asked, her pixie face turning dark red as a teenage boy waved at her. “They act like they’ve never seen strangers before!”
                Becky’s grin grew larger and more realistic as she gave a two-finger salute to the policeman leaning on his squad car with arms crossed as if daring her to go faster than the posted thirty mile an hour sign. Obediently, she stopped at the one red light the town could boast of and waited for it to turn green.
                “I guess,” she said with a shrug, watching an old man sitting outside a diner pretend to read a newspaper. He spit tobacco juice into a jar and set it down next to his chair, his bushy eyebrows making it very clear what he was looking at. “They don’t get too many newcomers here.”
                Her face nearly as red as her mother’s, Jen grimaced and pushed her sleeping brother’s head off her shoulder onto the vinyl headrest instead. “Well that’s fine, but they don’t have to stare. Makes me feel like we’re pets in a pet shop!”
                “Or beef at a cattle auction.” Becky laughed at her discomfort, noticing that the green light flickered faintly before going completely out. She drove on at the urging of the honking car behind her before she spoke. Jen grunted. “Oh don’t worry, they’ll get used to us and I’m pretty sure you’re going to like it here. Just think,” she said brightly, turning onto a dirt road the ratty map indicated. “We’re celebrities!”
                Jen laughed and looked out the window, taking in the country scene before her, the nosy townsfolk left behind. Large open fields of tall grass, trees lining the road, and mountains off in the distance made it a lovely scene she couldn’t find fault with.
                Becky smiled a sad, wistful smile, thankful she had her kids.
In the nine lonely years following Frank’s death, she often found herself wondering how she was supposed to cope and go on as she desperately missed her ‘better half.’
Well, I’ll never forget what Frank looked like, she thought a little morosely to herself as she glanced over at Jeff. Tall for his eleven years, his cherubic face hid a wealth of mischievousness and humor that always brightened her day, especially when he looked at her with his guilty dark brown eyes as if to say he were extremely sorry for some prank he was about to pull or had pulled. Just like his father. Her heart wrenched with sadness, and she quickly turned her thoughts to another source of comfort.



Lonely Hearts by Amanda Stephan
               
Jen. When she looked at her daughter, it was like she was looking into a mirror. Petite, sassy copper hair that loved being just a tad on the unmanageable side, her hazel eyes full of compassion and loyalty, quick to laugh and quick to cry, she promised to be a beauty when she got older. Like her mother.
                At least that’s what Frank had always said, Becky fought against the lump that insisted on forming in her throat as more memories of her dead husband flooded in.
Just in time to stop a tirade of reminiscent thoughts that would push her into a melancholy spirit, Jeff let out a terrific snore and wetly smacked his lips, making them erupt into giggles as his head lolled once again onto his sister’s shoulder. She rolled her eyes, but didn’t move him.
                 A few minutes later, Becky pulled into what looked like a tractor path instead of a driveway and stopped abruptly when a home came into view. “Jen, would you please check the address and see if this is the right place.” She asked solemnly, studying the old, dilapidated farm house, complete with thigh-high weeds for a lawn.
Brittle shutters hung on by sheer will-power next to dusty, grimy windows, a huge, antique antenna clutched a thin wire as if for dear life and tapped against the side of the house, knocking off peeling paint with every slight breeze, while a rustic lean-to that served as a shed as well as termite dessert, stood dejectedly off to one side of the drive. She tried to stifle a laugh and ended up snorting instead. 
                “Mom,” Jen answered doubtfully, looking at the paper in her hand. “This is the right place,” she wrinkled her nose, “but I don’t think the guy you’re renting it from told you the truth. Didn’t he say it was nice?” 
                They looked over at each other and burst out laughing, waking Jeffrey out of a terrific snore storm.
                He bolted upright and rubbed his eyes and looked out the window. “Huh? What? What are you guys laughing at? Why are we stopped here?” He asked suspiciously.
                “Welcome home kids,” Becky said, grinning as she pulled up alongside the drooping porch and turned off the truck.
                Jen opened her door and glanced down at the weeds. Becky could almost see her thinking about ticks and bugs getting on her. “Oh my word,” she muttered as she looked around, a dismal frown on her face. “How are we supposed to get in? Is he going to meet us here or something?”
                Jeff, always ready for an adventure, hopped out of the truck and ran to the porch. “He said he would leave the key under the mat by the front door. Come on,” he said as he ran, wanting to be there before his more precautious sister.
Unthinking, he yanked on the handle of the screen door, causing the whole thing to fall right off the frame on top of him. “Uh, mom?” He hung his head in shame, embarrassed that he’d already broken something. “I think we’re going to need a new screen door!”   
                “I’m pretty sure that’s not the only thing we’re going to have to work on.” Jen laughed, thankful that it had happened to him, and not her.
                “Noted!” Becky answered good-naturedly, giving him a thumbs-up. She unlatched the tailgate, smacking her hands across her jeans in an effort to erase the dust she’d accrued during their long hours of driving with the windows down.
                “Hey mom!” Jeff called, putting an end to her depressing musings. “You should see the beehive up here!” He pointed to a gigantic paper wasp hive in the corner of the porch ceiling.
                Jen jumped off the porch, squealing as Jeff picked up a stick to poke at the hive. “Jeffrey Allen! Don’t you dare!”
                “Did you find the key?” Becky called, trying to distract Jeff from the beehive.

Lonely Hearts by Amanda Stephan
                “You don’t need it,” he said, innocently trying to hide the stick behind his back. “The door’s open.”
                “Leave it alone,” warned Becky just as he was about to give the hive a good whack as she turned to go back to the truck.
                “Aww,” mumbled Jeff, dropping the stick and shuffling to the car with his hands in his pockets. “Do you have eyes in the back of your head or something?” He grumbled, stepping up next to her as she pulled some boxes toward the edge of the tailgate of her old beat-up Chevy.
                “Here,” she said, handing him a smaller box. “Why don’t you two help me and take some of these boxes in the house. And no. I don’t have eyes in the back of my head, I just know you awfully well.” She smiled indulgently at him, ruffling his thick hair. 
                Jen grabbed a box and started hauling it to the porch. “Too bad we sold our mower. Maybe we should get a cow!” She looked hopefully back at her mother.
“What’s the matter? Don’t you like the grass?” Becky laughed as she pushed more boxes near the end of the truck making it easier for the kids to grab them.
                “Grass?” Jeff asked dubiously, struggling with his load. “If it were any taller, it would be over my head!”
                Sensing her opportunity to pick on her brother, Jen blurted, “What do you mean, ‘would be’? It already is!”
Somewhat sensitive about his size, he glared ferociously at her, making her stifle any more comments she might have had.
                “Come on now,” Becky said repressing a grin as she slapped him on the back. “Let’s all get along now. We’ve got a lot of work to do, and I’m going to need lots of help. Here,” she handed a box of cleaning supplies to Jen, and a broom and mop to Jeff. “Please take these into the kitchen.” 
                They did as they were told, quietly quarreling amongst themselves as they left her to stack things on the porch. Becky was just setting down another load when she heard a loud crash and screams coming from the kitchen. Immediately dropping everything, her heart in her throat, she raced into the house expecting something terrible.
                Looking wildly around the kitchen, she was surprised to see both kids standing on the chipped white Formica counter, their faces white with terror. “What is it?” A large box of pots and pans lay ominously in the middle of the tiny kitchen and several lids had rolled over toward the antique refrigerator. This had obviously been the loud crash she had heard outside. Nudging the upset box with her toe, she wondered momentarily if a large poisonous spider had hitched a ride from their previous home and had scared the kids.
                Jen pointed to the small utility closet at the end of the room while she clutched Jeff’s arm with the other. “There’s an animal in there!” She said, shuddering with horror. “I think it’s a huge rat!”
                “Of all the things we have to have in the house, it’s got to be a rat!” Becky said shuddering convulsively, her lips stretched in a thin line. She hated rats and mice more than anything, and was always disgusted whenever she had to deal with them for some reason or other.
Cautiously, she grabbed a broom and tiptoed to the door, listening intently for any sound inside. Jeff shrugged off his sister’s hand and lightly jumped down off the counter, interested in seeing for himself what was in the closet. “Do you hear anything?” he whispered. 
Becky shook her head and gently twisted the knob, ready to use the broom as a weapon and squash whatever it was. Slowly, she pulled the creaky door open. Taking a deep breath, she peeped



Lonely Hearts by Amanda Stephan

inside and caught sight of two brown eyes looking back at her. Opening the door all the way, she found to her surprise and immense relief, a pair of baby raccoons. 
“Oh look,” she said, motioning for Jen to come down from her perch and look.
                “They’re so cute,” Jeff said, poking his head inside the door so he wouldn’t miss a chance to see what had caused all the fuss. “Can we keep them?” he asked, looking up hopefully.
                “No way,” Jen said, finally getting up the nerve to climb down. “That thing scared me to death.”
 “I wonder how they got in here,” Becky mumbled, looking around the closet. 
                “Maybe it got in through there,” Jeff said, pointing to the broken floor register. When he stepped in to get a closer look, one of the raccoons backed up to the wall and hissed menacingly at him.
                “I think we’re not going to get to keep either of these little critters,” Becky said, pulling him back out of the closet by the back of his shirt. “Go open the front door and I’ll try to sweep them out. Jen, get the mop and head them off if they try to escape.” Obediently, Jen grabbed the mop as Becky started sweeping both hissing and angry raccoons out the door. Finally, after three mishaps with one of the raccoons almost getting away and Jen re-climbing the counter screaming, they managed to sweep them both to freedom. Laughing, they hurriedly shut the door before they could change their minds and come back in. 
                “Jeff,” Becky said, turning to him. “Get the tool box out of the front of the truck and see if you can try to fix that register so they can’t get back in that way.” Jeff’s face lit up, happy to have a ‘man’s job’ to do.
                “We don’t have much more to do,” Becky sighed, as she and Jen went outside to finish unpacking the truck. 
                Her face red with exertion, Jen swept a few strands of hair back and stood erect, trying to unkink her back after lugging a large box into the front room. “I sure am glad that we decided to have those yard sales before we moved.”
                Becky puffed and tried to navigate around the room with her vision blocked by the load of boxes in her arms. “Oh come on, don’t you think it would have been interesting for you, Jeff, and I to carry in a couch?” She laughed as she and Jen slid down the wall and finally slumped to the floor, relaxing.
                With an air of delight and pride, Jeff came in and joined them, his grin splitting his face in half. “I tried to fix that register the best I could. I don’t think he’ll be back. Duct tape fixes everything!” 
                Becky clapped him on the back. “Thanks. And thank you too Jen. I appreciate both of your help.” She leaned back and closed her eyes, drained.
                Contentedly, they sat for a few minutes, hoping this could be the last move.
“Mom,” Jen said, her alarmed voice breaking the silence. “Someone’s here.”
Groaning, Becky stood up and arched her back just in time to see an old flat bed farm truck coming up the rutted drive.
“It could be the guy we’re renting from,” she said, unsure of herself. Quickly, she tucked a few stray hairs behind her ears and dusted off her jeans, trying to look presentable to whoever it was.
 As it neared the house, the truck turned off the driveway to park in the long grass right in front of their door. A bent over old man in greasy overalls managed to get out and limp up the steps, chewing on a weed. He spat it out and knocked before he entered the room uninvited. 
Alarmed, Becky stood with her hands on her hips, ready to push the fragile looking man out the door if necessary.
                “Howdy,” he drawled, eyeing her and the two kids. “Name’s Pickles.” He stuck out a grubby, calloused hand her way, obviously intending to shake.
               
Lonely Hearts by Amanda Stephan

Becky took his hand and gave it a light squeeze and a gentle shake, afraid she would hurt him. “You’re the landlord?” She asked, looking over his shoulder at her open-mouthed kids.
He ran his hands up and down his overalls straps, amused. “Yup,” he said, glancing around at all the boxes. “This all ya got?”
                “Yup,” Jeff mimicked humorously before Becky could answer. She shot him a warning look, her scowl deepening as he shrugged his shoulders and smiled like a Cheshire cat.
                “That’s my kind of boy,” the old man grinned, scratching his bald head. “Ya got a year lease and yer rent is due the first of the month,” he said, getting right to the point. “I live right down the road to the left if ya be needin’ anything, just give me a holler. Glad ya made it,” he stuck his hand out again. 
                Liking his simple, country ways, Becky found herself pumping his hand up and down a little more enthusiastically this time. “There is one thing we need, if you wouldn’t mind. I don’t have a lawnmower.” She raised her eyebrows as she tried to give him the hint as she walked him out to the porch.
                A look of pure astonishment passed across his weathered features as he scratched his head again. He thought a moment before answering. “Well ya ain’t got to worry about the grass. It’ll die in a few weeks when it gets colder out.”
                Becky followed him to his truck, not quite ready to give up. “You don’t have one? We’d really like to cut the grass.”
                Jen snorted, close at her mother’s heels. She hated being left out of conversations. “Yeah, we can’t find Jeff if he steps off the path.” Becky nudged her in the ribs, making her squeak. 
                “Sure I got one,” he said, climbing into his truck. “Bye.” He waved as he put the old truck in gear and drove off, another long weed clutched between his teeth.
                Stunned, they watched him leave, a trail of dust clouds hanging in the air. “I think that means he’ll bring it tomorrow,” Jeff said after a moment, joining them on the porch. Amused, they burst into laughter at their neighbor’s odd ways.   
Becky ran a hand over her face, her eyes twinkling merrily. “Who’s hungry?”
                Always anxious to eat, Jeff gave a loud whoop as he jumped in the air. “I’m starving! What’re we going to have?”
                She shrugged, looking from one happy child to the other. “I thought we’d just go out for something tonight, what do you think?” Grinning at their exuberant ‘yes’, she clapped Jeff on his shoulder and grabbed her purse. “Let’s go!” 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A New Way to Sample Christian Books




A New Way to Sample Christian Books

By Lorilyn Roberts


The following blurb in italics is quoted from Nathan Bransford’s blog, dated September 29, 2011.

“There is so much talk about self-published books in the writing-o-sphere. But have you actually read one?
Poll below -
·                   Yes
69%
·                   No
30%
Total Votes: 1,773

Also, your further thoughts requested in the comments section. Did you like the self-published book you read? Would you read another? Do you only read traditionally published books? Etc.”




The poll was under way when the comments were posted so it’s interesting to look back at the final results. I read most of the voluminous 285 responses. If you would like to peruse them, here is the link: http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2011/09/have-you-ever-read-self-published-book.html

While it’s hard to generalize from such a wide variety of responses, some things are clear: 

1. There is still a lingering prejudice toward Print-On-Demand/self-published books.
2. Many readers do not think Print-On-Demand/self-published books are on par with industry-published books.
3. A sizable portion of readers have not read Print-On-Demand/self-published books.
4. Many who haven’t read Print-On-Demand/self-published books would if they could sample them for free.

Out of the menagerie of comments shared in this blog post, after much reflection, I came up with an idea which I will share in a moment. But first, I want to give my own thoughts about the findings from this survey. I have said this for a long time, although most traditionally-published authors won’t agree with me:  Readers don’t care how a book is published. They might think they care because of preconceived notions that self-published books are in the category of “vanity” publishing, and therefore, inferior. In reality, however, when you dig deeper into those who are not biased, you will find what readers really care about is content. Content is king.

My American roots go deep. Some of my ancestors arrived with the Mayflower, and in the decades of colorful history since then, dreamers have made us a great nation. The key factors that made that possible: Freedom and a capitalist system where hard work, creativity, and perseverance rewarded those who didn’t give up.  Do we really need gatekeepers to tell the world whether something is good?  Do we really need a hundred authors with unread manuscripts returned because the overworked acquisitions editor was two months behind opening her mail? In the past, because of the financial investment, book publishers decided which books would see the light of day. Most never did, making it very difficult for promising authors to get discovered.

Get ten people in a room and I guarantee you, they won’t agree on everything. Chances are they will have different tastes on what they like to eat, where they want to go on vacation, and yes, certainly on what books are worth reading. The traditional way of publishing books squelches creativity. I have spent far too much time trying to understand what an acquisitions editor or agent wanted, where he wanted my manuscript sent, and then he lost my manuscript anyway. That wasted time could have been better spent procuring an editor, improving my writing, and publishing and marketing my book myself. That is exactly what I did eventually. My point, though, is that the readers didn’t care how my book was published. They did care that it was worth reading.

I believe the days of mailing a book to one hundred publishers over five years hoping to find a “taker” are gone. Why would anyone want to do that? Authors can publish their own books now—faster and more efficiently. It doesn’t mean that the traditional way won’t exist into the future. It does mean ALL publishing companies will be vying for supremacy in a rapidly changing environment where the old ways of doing things won’t work as well. Competition raises the standard and forces downward the cost of publishing. The reader benefits from more choices in books and the result is a brighter future for new authors who are gifted with an entrepreneurial mindset. The only requirement—write the best book.

While the John 3:16 Marketing Network is for Christian authors, I envision our paradigm being adopted for mainstream authors, though it may not be free. The hard work in the John 3:16 Marketing Network is borne by many who have a passion to serve. Opportunities abound to provide books to readers all over the world, not only through industry-published books, self-published and Print-On-Demand books, but e-books as well. I envision e-books becoming popular in countries where the shipment of p-books is not practical or affordable. We are on the cusp of a revolution in publishing, and the John 3:16 Marketing Network is at the forefront of marketing innovation. Readers want diversity, options, and choices. The John 3:16 Marketing Network is poised to experiment with new ideas and introduce readers to new ways to sample books. Again, I want to emphasize, let the reader have more choices and make it easier for him to sample.

Not only is it important for authors to provide readers with the best possible product, why not give book lovers “more flavors”?  With the end of the year approaching, I have exciting news.

First, we will have a short Christmas membership drive to allow newcomers (authors and bloggers) to join without a referral (must believe in John 3:16).

Second, to celebrate our first full year of launching best-seller books on Amazon, we will be offering a free e-book, Fifty First Chapters From Christian Authors, a New Way to Sample Christian Books.  

Third, we will be introducing a new John 3:16 Marketing Network Membership for readers. If you are interested, all you have to do is sign up to receive our e-zine. You will NOT be bombarded with emails because I don’t have time to write them. My goal is to provide access to the best undiscovered Christian literature in the world. In the future, we will serialize e-books; and offer coupons for free e-books, shorts stories, and anthologies by John 3:16 authors. Tell us what you want; we would love to hear your ideas.

Our first e-book, Fifty First Chapters From Christian Authors, a New Way to Sample Christian Books, will be released on December 15 (or sooner). To receive your free copy, all you need to do is sign up to receive our e-zine. Enjoy reading the first chapter of fifty books by fifty authors AT NO COST. Nothing like beginning a new book that whets your appetite for more. You won’t have to travel to a book store or surf the web to find the kind of book you want. We have made it easy for you to sample a large assortment of all kinds of books while drinking your latte at Starbucks, at home curled up on the sofa, or during your lunch break at work.

Our John 3:16 Marketing Network authors are known and unknown, young and old, first-time published and multi-published, standard-industry published, self-published, and Print-On-Demand published. Our goal is to glorify God in our writings and help each other to promote books with a Christian worldview. If you are interested, please sign up for our mailing list. On December 15 (maybe earlier), you will be emailed a coupon to get your free copy. We will also be posting previews of chapters ahead of the launch at http://john316mn.blogspot.com. More information will be forthcoming.